Every year since 2012, we’ve spent some time after the season looking back at those that wore the Birds on the Bat. Whether it’s a bit player that got into just a couple of games or someone that played almost every day, we’ll look at their stats, their positives, their negatives, and grade them based on what we would have expected from them. The stat line is from their time in St. Louis, though splits and other numbers may include time with other teams, if applicable. Think of this as like the players packing up their locker and then seeing Mike Shildt before they head off for the winter. Once again, our great header work comes to us from cardinalsgifs, who continues to be a master.
Player: Dominic Leone
Season stats: 1-2, 4.50 ERA, 29 G, 24 IP, 27 H, 3 HR, 8 BB, 26 K, 3.62 FIP, 1.458 WHIP, 9.8 K/9, 0.0 bWAR
Hero/Goat: Goat 4
Overall grade: C
Positives: Was not charged with a run in 22 of his 29 appearances….struck out two batters in 10 appearances….righties had a .623 OPS against him….had the exact same amount of plate appearances, at bats, and strikeouts against righties and lefties….had a .629 OPS against in the second half….pitched three innings in August and allowed just one hit in 11 at bats….fifth place hitters hit .222 against him….if batters swung at the first pitch, they had a .454 OPS….limited hitters to a .593 OPS when he was ahead in the count….batters went 4-20 against him when leading off an inning….held hitters to a .586 OPS with nobody out in the inning….batters hit .259 with runners in scoring position….his best work was done in medium leverage situations (.190/.261/.333)….had a .529 OPS against on two days of rest….in four games, the Cubs had a .444 OPS against him.
Negatives: Was charged with multiple runs four times last season….six of the 12 runs he allowed last season came in September….lefties had a .319 batting average against him….the OPS against him in the first half was .817….however, his ERA was 4.91 in the second half….his first blown save came against the Brewers in his second appearance, when he allowed back-to-back home runs with two outs in the ninth (he had also allowed a run-scoring single in the eighth after relieving Tyler Lyons)….if batters took the first pitch, they went on to slash .351/.418/.474….all three times he went to a 3-1 count, he walked the batter….hitters had an .805 OPS when they were ahead in the count….batters hit .294 with two outs in an inning….in late and close situations, allowed an OPS of 1.073….gave up an .875 OPS in high leverage situations….had four plate appearances after 25 pitches and allowed three hits, including a home run….on zero days’ rest, had a .538/.556/.769 line….had a 6.75 ERA in day games.
Overview: You could see flashes of what the Cardinals thought they were getting from Leone when they traded Randal Grichuk for him and Connor Greene. There was a contingent of folks–and I was one of them–that thought he could handle the ninth inning. The early results weren’t great for him, especially that Milwaukee game, and the addition of Greg Holland and the emergence of Bud Norris meant that he didn’t have to worry about the ninth after April. However, he dealt with a nerve issue that sidelined him much of the year. How much of the early struggles were because of that, it’s hard to know. Afterwards, you could say he was still getting readjusted to the bigs after so much time off. All in all, there are definitely some reasons why 2018 wasn’t so great for Leone, but there’s also the nagging idea that the Cards have busted a lot on reliever bets. If nothing else, though, Leone had a good K/BB rate as well as a K/IP rate. If he’s healthy, there’s no particular reason to think he can’t be a dominant reliever out of the bullpen still.
Outlook: There haven’t been any reports on Leone this winter but he’s not arbitration eligible until next offseason so he’s a lock to be kept on the roster, especially while there are still signs that he can be effective. I don’t think anyone expects him to take over the ninth, especially since the Cardinals have indicated a desire to bring in somebody to challenge Jordan Hicks for that role, but an effective Leone could be a significant help in the seventh and eighth innings next year. We’ll just have to wait and see if he is healthy enough to be effective.